Friday, March 28, 2008

Grumpy McGrumperson

I haven't run since Thursday March 20.

I feel nasty after eating three cookies, two croissants, a glazed doughnut, and a small bowl of chili this morning during "food Friday."

The sun is so bright outside it's hurting my eyes and making me dizzy. I wish it was cloudy. Never though I'd say that, eh, fellow Michiganders?


Did I mention I feel gross? In the gastrointestinal region? Stupid doughnut.

I have a 10K road race coming up (the Meteor 10K) on April 5 and I haven't run since March 20.

I keep coughing up big globs of mucus. Stupid cold. Stupid cough.

Why can't it be 4:00 already?

I have nasty chili and doughnut-flavored burps.

I feel fat and lazy and sluggish. I need to go running tomorrow phlegm be damned!

Wednesday, March 26, 2008


That thing that's been going around? You know, that germ, that bug, that whatever-it-is that everyone and their brother and their brother's girlfriend seems to have? Yeah, I've got it.

I haven't run since last Thursday. I spent four days in a near-comatose state wrapped in my comforter in bed only moving to go to the bathroom. I ate one piece of toast, two milk and strawberry smoothies, and one small bowl of tuna noodle casserole in three days. I lost seven pounds. I slept for 22 hours on Sunday. I missed work both Friday and Monday. My lungs are full of garbage. I got tired using the stairs yesterday.

Things aren't so hot right now. I'm hoping I can rebound enough to do some light running this weekend. The half marathon training schedule has been put on hold for the moment.

Monday, March 24, 2008

I'm an Auntie!

On Saturday, March 22 I became an aunt when my brother and my sister-in-law had their first child. Presenting my new nephew:

Definitely starting off on the right foot: Go Blue! (in case you can't see it, he's wearing a wee little Michigan hat)

The proud parents!

Monday, March 17, 2008

Race Report: Shamrocks and Shenanigans 5K

Watch out!

After the personal debacle that was the Super 5K in February, I was more than ready to kick some butt at Sunday's Shamrocks and Shenanigans 5K in Ann Arbor. Six weeks of half marathon training including speed work had to have made a difference.

The race didn't start until 1:30 pm on Sunday. I could only surmise this was meant to lure as much of the post-race crowd as possible into hanging around downtown for some Day-Before-St. Patrick's Day beer and food, since in Michigan, one is not allowed to serve or purchase alcohol before noon on Sunday. I'm 100% serious! You wouldn't believe how much that sucks! Especially when one is out of beer and the NASCAR race starts at noon! Or when one goes out for a fancy brunch at the Common Grill and can't even have a mimosa! Like, take your ancient frowsy, fuddy-duddy Puritanism and stuff it, people!

Anyway. The race started late, and good for that, because we were out quite late (for us-- 12:15 am) the night before at a St. Patrick's Day party. I also consumed a large quantity of beer. Despite feeling slightly fuzzy-headed Sunday morning, a breakfast of oatmeal and a lot of water put me back in fighting form. By the time we departed for Ann Arbor around 12:30 I was totally in the zone. I was pumped. Psyched. What-have-you. I was ready. Ready to KICK some ASS!

I got my chip and put my number on my shirt, then went for a short warm-up jog along the race course. At the corner of Ashley and William I heard someone calling out my name and I saw it was my friend Tina who was there to volunteer so I stopped and we chatted for a little bit. While I was standing there a few people came up in cars, saw the cones across the road, and, not realizing they could still turn onto William, they made angry, screeching three-point turns and tore off back down Ashley in the other direction which happened to be the wrong way on a one-way street. One guy drove up and yelled, "So, I can't get to Downtown Home and Garden from ANYWHERE?" Dude, just chill out. The spring seeds aren't going anywhere. Park farther away and, you know, WALK THERE. Isn't Ann Arbor supposed to be the third best city for walking in the country?

After my warmup jog I came back to the parking lot along Ashley to find that my friend Patti and her husband had arrived. Patti was signed up for the 2-mile walk. We stood around for a little while, I used the Port-A-Potty one more time, and then it was time to head to the start. I made sure I was closer to the front of the pack this time. I was on a mission and I didn't want to get stuck in the rear of the pack and spend the first mile overextending myself to catch up to my pace peers. It helped that the race was split into two heats: a "competitive" heat for those who intended to finish in under 27:00, and a "noncompetitive" heat for the walkers and everyone else in the 5K. I made sure I was in the "competitive" heat. As I was standing in the crowd being alternately nervous and excited, fiddling with my shirt and headband, (every single strand of hair MUST be held back!) someone said, "Excuse me, but are you Sarah?" I turned and there was a guy I didn't know standing next to me. I said, "Yes," and he said, "Hi, I'm Jeremy," and I was thinking Jeremy...Jeremy...wait a minute...oh, of course! He was someone I knew from an online runners message board; at some point we'd discovered we both lived and ran in the Ann Arbor area and we were both doing the S&S 5K. There had been some discussion of perhaps meeting up on race day to put faces to the online identities (worlds colliding! again!) but nothing concrete had been arranged, which is why I was so very confused when he came up and introduced himself like we were old pals. I had to ask how on earth he knew who I was and he replied that he'd seen pictures of myself I posted on this blog. So we chatted for a little bit and then all of a sudden the whole pack was taking off in front of us because the race had started!

I bolted with the rest of the pack and quickly settled into a groove. I felt good. Rested, energetic, loose, and strong. We turned onto William, then First, and back north to Huron. There was a hill on Huron between First and Main with which I was going to become very well-acquainted over the next 20 minutes or so. The course looped around downtown Ann Arbor four times. When we passed the first mile mark on First St., the clock said I was at 7:07. 7:07! That was way faster than I had been expecting. Yet, I felt good. Really good. I was still holding my form, my breathing wasn't out of control, and my heart wasn't beating too fast. Around mile 1.5, on our second loop of the course, the men's leader came through the field. He had lapped the field and was almost done (he finished in 15:09). He was flying. It was kind of weird. I never get to see race leaders. He was sailing along, almost whisper-quiet in what I can only assume were racing flats (maybe I should get some of those...) .

Mile 2 I passed at around 14:40. I can't remember exactly; I just knew I was going really fast. Much faster than I had expected. When I passed the 2-mile mark, I did a quick calculation in my head and realized that I was on pace to break 25:00 for sure if not 24:00! When I came to the race my only goal was to break 25:00. I came so close at the Big House Big Heart 5K last September when I ran a 25:01. My "dream goal" was to break 24:00. I had absolutely no intention of setting a new personal record. That wasn't even a remote possibility as far as I was concerned.

Mile 3 was difficult. I was starting to drag. I was dreading the uphill grade on Huron that was going to come right before the finish. I tried to concentrate on keeping my form, not bringing my arms up, staying upright and strong and relaxed. The hill near the finish was as tiring as I thought it would be, but I leaned into it and gave it almost everything I had left, saving just enough for a good hard kick to the finish, and I needed every last bit, because when I rounded the final corner onto Main St. and saw the finish clock in the distance, at first I thought it said "26:xx" and I seethed and fumed and thought If that says "26" I am really going to be mad but as I got closer I saw that it said "22:xx" and then I was like Holy shit! I have a chance to PR! Go, go, go, go, go! I forced myself to run as fast as I could as I watched the seconds tick towards the time of my old PR. Oh God, please don't let me finish one second slower than my PR. That would have been devastating. Eyes glued to the finish clock, I didn't slow up even a tiny bit as I pounded over the timing mats. I mashed the stop button on my Garmin and it said 23:15. Oh my God, I had just set a new personal record. I JUST SET A NEW PERSONAL RECORD! My old PR of 23:21, the one I set at that dual meet with Orange High School in the fall of 1991 during my last year of high school cross country, had fallen. I was stunned as well as completely drained and I had to pause with my hands on my knees for a moment. After removing my chip and getting a free beer glass I saw John on the sidewalk and I went over to him and squealed, "I just got a new PR!" I couldn't believe it. The picture to the left is of me just before the finish, right about the time I realized I had a chance to PR and I better move it if I wanted to make that a reality.

Garmin claimed my mile splits were 6:57, 7:20, and 7:41. Who knows if that's totally accurate. 6:57?? That would be the fastest mile I have ever run in my entire life! My official finish time ended up being 23:19. I finished fifth/tied for fourth in my age group out of 81 and 165/899 overall. I got four free beer glasses! We all went out for lunch and beer afterward at Grizzly Peak Brewing Company.

I've run this race before, actually. March 12, 2000. I was still in graduate school at Michigan and some of my classmates and I decided to run the race. I "trained" for about 10 days beforehand (a grand total of three or four runs in Gallup Park) and finished in 33:33, which is my slowest 5K time ever. 8 years later, I was back on the streets of Ann Arbor to do the same race in a time that was 10 minutes and 14 seconds better.

However, this spectacular personal triumph has created a new wrinkle. You see, I joined in the Shave Your 5K Challenge organized by Vanilla over at Half-Fast, and I had joined the fray with my first 2008 5K time which was 26:06 (from the Super 5K). I thought I had it made with that 26:06. It was going to be ridiculously easy to beat that time at a 5K later in the year. However, "later in the year" meant any race after the cutoff date of March 30. My time from the race on March 16 was going to count as my "Stubble Time" whether I liked it or not. Oh, sure, I could have taken the sleazy way out and just not told Vanilla about my new Stubble Time. That way when I ran some 5K over the summer and beat my PR then I would come out shaved clean as a whistle in the SY5K Challenge. But no, I had to go and ruin everything by being honest and telling Vanilla that I ran a 23:19 which was not only a new PR but my new Stubble Time.

Now I have to beat that 23:19. Have to. I've just created more work for myself. Great. Just great. Actually, I'm being sarcastic. I love a good challenge when it comes to running. Therefore, my new goals for 2008 (now that breaking my PR is out of the way) are to break my PR again and break 23:00. If I do both of those at once, hooray!

A job well done. Now, time for beer!

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Come to the Dark Side...

Ever so slowly I have been bringing John over to the dark side, aka running. We started out with running to the gym, then running a different way to the gym that is a little longer, and yesterday he took the biggest plunge of all and got some proper running shoes. Which were then put to the test during the Wednesday night group run at the Running Fit HQ. I think 4 miles might have been too much for the running newbie but he was a good sport and put up with it admirably. Though he and his quads might beg to differ by the end of today.

When he was in the process of being fitted for new shoes, the salesguy asked him if he was training for anything. He said, "No," and I interjected, "He's training to keep up with me."

At the same time he bought the shoes I slipped a copy of Chi Running into the pile. I want to learn everything I can about it.

I also convinced him he had to have a pair of SmartWool socks, because, well, they rule.

And so it begins...

Monday, March 10, 2008

Tooth Update

It turned out I did crack my teeth as well as chip them. Fun! I just came back from the dentist where I was patched up, smoothed out, and sent home as good as new. Or even better considering the state of my teeth before they were fixed.

Now I think I will go for a run.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Shifting Gears

Over the past couple of days there has been a sudden and dramatic change in my running. It all started when I read one runner's take on the whole "Chi Running" thing. Chi Running is something I have heard about but haven't investigated more thoroughly. However, I read this and decided it sounded like something simple enough to apply to my own running:
"...most runners need to lean slightly forward from your ankles - keeping their running posture intact - to position the center of gravity in front of your body rather than the center of your body. (Note: Do Not Bend At Your Waist!) You are then using gravity itself as a propellant to move you forward rather than your legs. You should keep your legs and hips (and, really, your entire body) relaxed and loose. You then move your legs under your body - instead of "reaching" forward with them - and work with the natural gravitational forces to move your body forward. Your legs will kick out the back more whereas in Power Running your knees rise up higher in front of you."
All right, I thought, that sounds easy enough. So yesterday morning when I set out for my run, I put it into practice.

Holy crap! All of a sudden I felt like I was flying. My legs were just kind of chillin' out, going along for the ride, as I zoomed along the sidewalk. When my Garmin beeped at me to signal I had gone one mile, I looked at it and to my surprise and pleasure I had completed the mile in 8:19. I wasn't even breathing hard. OK, I thought, perhaps there is something to this Chi Running after all...

I didn't keep it up continuously for the remainder of my run yesterday; after all, it was just supposed to be an easy spin around town. I ended up doing mile 2 in 10:03 and mile 3 in 9:13.

Then I found myself pondering something I heard on an old episode of the Dump Runners Club podcast. He claimed that the key to running faster lay in one's turnover and not stride length. The more times one could strike the ground in a given length of time, the faster one's pace would be. I decided to combine both of these-- Chi Running and a faster turnover-- and apply them to my long run this morning.


I started with a mile warmup in 9:01. Then I fired it up.

Mile 2: 8:37
Mile 3: 8:45 (dirt road, still snow-covered in places, footing not the best)
Mile 4: 8:10 (I looked at my Garmin and yelled, "Oh my God, what the hell?")
Mile 5: 8:11
Mile 6: 7:53
Mile 7: 7:44

Total: 7.0 miles, 58:23, average pace 8:20/mile

I couldn't believe my eyes when I looked at my Garmin after I finished. A 7:44? What the bloody hell is going on here? I seem to have stumbled onto some magic key to speed, crossed some invisible line into a land I haven't visited since I ran cross-country in high school. And the best (and strangest) part is that I didn't feel like I was stressing myself. OK, so yeah, maybe that last mile wasn't quite as easy as the previous six; I knew I was going to have to work for it to keep my pace up. And work I did. My average heart rate for mile 7 was 156 bpm and I reached my max heart rate of the whole run-- 163 bpm-- shortly before I finished. But Matt from the aforementioned Dump Runners Club talks a lot about "finishing fast," and that's what I wanted to do. And did. With a little extra effort.

I think there are several factors at work here. One, the speed work I have been doing and training in general. Speed work is supposed to make me faster, and gee whiz, it seems to be working. Two, the Chi Running technique. Three, concentrating on my turnover.

I went out this morning not really intending to blaze through seven miles in under an hour. This was supposed to be my "take it easy" day, my Long Slow Distance day. But as I went along...I realized that I just felt awesome. Everything was perfect: the weather, my stomach, my iPod, the road surface, everything! I just kept going faster and faster and I thought to myself, gee, I feel REALLY good right now! I felt like I was gliding; my feet were barely touching the ground. I didn't back off, I just kept going. And going. And the next thing I knew, I ran a 7:44 mile.

All of this has me EXTRA excited for my next race, which is coming up in one week. It's the Running Fit Shamrocks and Shenanigans 5K in downtown Ann Arbor on March 16. I'm going to run in the "competitive heat," for people who intend to finish in under 27:00. Well, people, if you've read my blog for any length of time you should know that I am seriously gunning for a sub-25:00 5K time. My last 5K was a bit of a disappointment in that department. Suffice to say I am going on a tear with this next race. I am going to BURN UP that race course. I am going BALLS TO THE WALL now that I know the speed of which I am capable. If I can crank out two sub-8:00 miles in the last stage of a long run, I should be able to do the same or better in a measly 5K.

In other news: I think I cracked a tooth, I have to report for jury duty tomorrow, and I weighed 159.2 lbs this morning which is a HUGE improvement over last week.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Everything Important In My Life

I do believe this picture is truly worth 1,000 words. It pretty much sums me up. Who can tell me why?

Edited to add: the "name tag" I am wearing includes the phrases "I like talking about..." and "Ask me about..."

Monday, March 3, 2008

What Could Have Been

Since I've become an Obsessed Runner(tm), there is rarely a day that goes by that I do not run. Of course, most of my runs take place around the town in which I live. However, when I do travel, I always try to get out and run wherever I may be. So far I have run in such exotic places as Michigan's Thumb and the Cleveland, Ohio area.

Okay, so, maybe I haven't traveled a lot lately.

Instead, I torture myself by thinking about all the places I have been where I could have gone for an awesome run...if I had been a runner at the time:

Hawaii (Big Island, Maui, and Kauai)
Ireland (Western)
The Bahamas
A plethora of places out West
My favorite place in the whole world, the Clarks Fork River Valley, northwest Wyoming
Various national parks
Washington, D.C.

Most recently I was in Hawaii (August 2006). I could have run through Kailua-Kona on the very street on which the Ironman Triathlon finishes, for Pete's sake. However, I wasn't a runner at the time. That was still over two months in the future.

I did, however, run on Cape Cod last summer. That, at least, I did not miss out on. I had just started training for my first half marathon and when I went on vacation my long run was four miles. Four miles! Why, these days I'm barely warmed up after four miles.

Luckily...I'm going BACK TO CAPE COD in July of this year, and I will be SURE to put in some quality runs while I am there! In fact, I believe I will be training for the Detroit Marathon by then so I will have plenty to do.

Is it lame that now when I think about going somewhere, I don't think, "Where can we stay," but "I wonder where I can go running?"